The God of Restoration

A huge part of my testimony is one that I’ve been afraid to speak about. Not because of myself, but because I don’t want to hurt the ones I love. However… If we know that we overcome the devil by the blood of the Lamb and the word of our testimony (Revelation 12:10-11), how will people overcome similar struggles if I don’t share mine? So I pray my story is received with the open heart that I am writing it with. If these words don’t bear fruit for you then let them fall to the ground. 

I was raised by two incredible, patient, unconditionally loving people who are not my biological parents. My mom and dad. They loved me so intensely (still do) and provided an amazing childhood for me that I will cherish forever. Mom and Dad, you both are pillars in my life and always will be. You are my children’s grandparents and one day will be great grandparents and so on. You both are forever in my life, and were placed in my life by God for a purpose-a good purpose. I know this because that’s what the Bible tells me. 

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” (Jeremiah‬ ‭29:11‬ NIV‬‬)

They say there’s two sides to every story. For mine, there’s a hundred. There have always been different reasons why I wasn’t raised by my birth parents. And there was so much damage done on both sides, that at this point, to re-tell the story only brings up pain for those who would share their perspective. I always searched for the truth. But I was searching for the wrong kind of truth. 

I don’t know 100% why I wasn’t raised by my birth parents like the perfect image of what we say family is supposed to be. 

And I’ve finally realized that I don’t have to know the nitty-gritty of my past, because God knows every single detail of my future. My future is consisted of God’s promises. I am His child. He loves me. He has good plans for me. I am a High Priest. My family will be blessed. I am the head and not the tail. No weapon formed against me will prosper. God is for me, so who can be against me? I might not know how or why all the junk in my life happened but I do know that Jesus tells me that He is the way, the truth and the life. So anytime I find myself trying to figure out the confusion, I focus on the absolute truth- Jesus. Regardless of what Satan may have intended for bad, God has used for good-my good and my entire family’s. Our God doesn’t pick favorites! 

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose. For those God foreknew He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. And those He predestined, He also called; those He called, He also justified; those He justified, He also glorified.” (‭‭Romans‬ ‭8:28-30‬ ‭NIV‬‬)

You see, God’s plan is big. The bad moments we encounter seem huge, but God’s good plan for all of us who follow Him is much larger than the mere speck of a bad situation. God predestined me to be made in the image of His Son, Jesus! Everything that I have experienced and am currently experiencing is contributing to that process of becoming more and more like Jesus. 

I’m currently reading through Genesis and finishing up the story of Joseph. Joseph had a calling long before he was ever born. His entire family did. Seemingly bad choices were made and people were hurt by sin-clouded hearts. This family and the things they did to each other were broken and dysfunctional from day one. Jacob picked favorites between his wives which resulted into two sisters hating each other. The curse of brokenness was then passed down to their children. 

When Joseph was born, he was favored over his brothers simply because his mother was Rachel, the favorite wife. It was complete dysfunction and God still used it for His glory. Joseph was anointed by God and eventually the brothers became tired of feeling compared to Joseph. 

Anyone else ever witness someone being blessed and feel like God forgot about you or favor’s them more? Maybe that person is just better than you so God likes them more? Yeah, see…jealousy and selfish-ambition is nothing new. 

So they sold their own flesh and blood in to slavery. Jacob’s favorite son was taken from him (but maybe he needed that to appreciate and love on his other sons)-again, I don’t know why, just bantering with you here. Joseph was a slave but God provided the ladder for Joseph to step his way up through that hardship. For lack of better words, Joseph ended up becoming Pharoah’s bestie. Then he was thrown into prison. But once again God’s good purpose triumphed satan’s attempts for destruction. Joseph rose in power. He ended up becoming the head dude over the land with all the food and money during a multi-nationwide famine. Here comes the appointed time for reconciliation in the midst of what appears to be a struggle! Joseph’s brothers went to get some food from the Egyptians because they were starving in the famine. Jospeh recognized them and immediately made choices based off of his past pain. He basically tried to get a little revenge here because of all that they did to him. But that revenge did nothing for him except make him feel pain for his brothers and make his brothers feel more condemnation for what they did to him. 

Reliving the past and making decisions based off our past pain, bears no fruit in our lives. 

Move on. Forgive. I’d even so bluntly say:

 get. over. it.

 Today is the day of salvation. 

After a time, Joseph did move on. That God-sent, reconciliation moment with his brothers was so sweet and perfect. God’s timing for restoration and reconciliation is perfect. Because of those bad decisions made by his family and himself,  Joseph became the M.V.P. of Egypt. This allowed him to move his family from poverty and famine and into a land full of prosperity and resources. God took the ashes and created beauty. Now read what Jacob tells Joseph when he finally meets his long lost son and grandchildren:

“Then Jacob said to Joseph, “I never thought I would see your face again, but now God has let me see your children, too!””(Genesis‬ ‭48:11‬ ‭NLT‬‬)

The things we never in a million years thought were possible, can happen with God. I never thought I’d have a relationship with my birth mom. Never. Over years of only seeing what was in front of me, I even grew to hate her. Just typing those words out fills my eyes with tears because that is so far from the truth now. 

What I saw as impossible, God made possible. 

My God-sent reconciliation moment with my siblings and our mom, Stacy, in 2011

Not only did God restore my relationship with my birth mom, but He moved her from being self-identified as my ‘birth mom, Stacy’, to becoming and feeling like my mom. If that makes sense? I have two moms!! And an amazing dad and incredible stepdad! In the matter of a few years, God took my broken and scattered family, rooted it in His love and multiplied it. It literally doesn’t makes sense to the world, but it’s real, it’s true, and it’s a blessing. At the right time in my downward spiral (after 18 years of little communication), my mom, Stacy, showed up. She showed me what it looked like to walk with Jesus and to let Him change you. I knew who she once was and I couldn’t recognize the woman of God she had become. Her testimony of salvation was proof for me to see that God is real and I knew I wanted whatever she had. At my mom and stepdad’s wedding, I gave a speech that went something like this:

“If I blamed you for everything my entire life, then maybe I can blame you for my relationship with Christ in a year.”

I was far from following Jesus in that moment. It took some time. But God restored our relationship. And that relationship brought me back to Christ. Not just me though. Our restored relationship brought my husband to Christ too. And now, we have children who will follow Jesus as well; then their children will follow. It’s a real, everlasting promise. Today,  I live across the street from her. She’s one of my best friends and counsels me on the way I should go in Christ. She imperfectly walks out her faith with fear and trembling. She’s progressing into a Proverbs 31 woman and her dependence on God throughout her weaknesses shows me how I can too. 

God uses the foolish things to confound the wise (1 Corinthians 1:27). He uses the broken things to bring structure to the world. He uses the ugliest of situations to bring beauty to life. He uses death to bring life to all (John 3:16). Thank you, Jesus! Some of the promises we can stand on once Jesus becomes our absolute truth can be found in Isaiah 61 (go read it).

“They will rebuild the ancient ruins, repairing cities destroyed long ago. They will revive them, though they have been deserted for many generations.” (Isaiah‬ ‭61:4‬ ‭NLT‬‬)

For me, Jesus is talking about restoration here. Even the most damaged relationships, the most broken situations, the feuds that began long before you ever entered this earth, they all can be revived and rebuilt through Jesus Christ! Have hope. Pray for opportunities of restoration. Ask God to show you the areas in your heart that might need work in order for the restoration to take place! God can rebuild the most ancient of ruins, He can restore your most damaged and dysfunctional situations and relationships. Let Him do it!
–I don’t mention the restoration of my relationship with my birth dad, because he passed away before we had much of chance for that. That restoration is promised and it will come one day when I go to my heavenly home! I look forward to it. 

Jesus is enough

As previously shared, my family and I are in a season of struggle. But I think I might even amend that statement to be ‘peacefully struggling victoriously’. Is that an oxymoron? Maybe, but it’s accurate for us. This time in our lives is tough-outwardly. No car. Everyday we are depending on people for transportation. Which is fun when all of us are going somewhere (putting 2 car seats in and then taking them out-over and over). We’ve definitely tried staying home unless we need to go to work. We haven’t been to the grocery store in a while and I’ve officially ran out of even the most random dishes I could throw together. You know those meals that you create from all of the possibly freezer burned meat and old cans of weird veggies in the dusty part of your pantry? Yeah even all of that’s gone! But I’m not here for your pity. On the contrary, I’m here to ENCOURAGE YOU! Because even though our circumstances aren’t that great right now, Jesus is enough for us. Is Jesus enough for you? 

“For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink.” (John 6:55 NIV)

‭‭I remember the first time I read that, thinking, “okay Jesus that sounds a little weird”. But now I get it. He’s saying that He is enough for us! I know what you’re thinking. But can Jesus really bring me food when I’m hungry? Can Jesus pay my bills? I believe in miracles and know He can do all of that. But what I think really changes things is when the chaos surrounds you and yet you decide that you’re okay with all of that because you have Jesus’s Spirit within you. Circumstances can change in the blink of an eye-for better or worse. But what lasts forever? Jesus. His unchanging love for you. Your life with Him beside you. Don’t let the small measure of a single moment, transform the perspective of your entire life. Don’t let your current struggle steal your gift of peace instilled in you through the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus. I recently saw my best friend comment on a Facebook post:

“It’s just a bad day, not a bad life”- Maddi Webb

10 points for Maddi! Here’s your first published quote. But seriously, thanks girl. I needed that truth! It’s just a bad situation, it’s not what’s to come. Jesus can sustain you through it all if you allow Him! He is real food and drink! 

“They triumphed over him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony; they did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death.” ‭‭(Revelation‬ ‭12:11) NIV 

We are overcomers. We will be victorious no matter what. Regardless of what’s in my fridge, or how I’m getting to work, my family is filled up and overflowing. We triumph over “the accuser of the brethren” aka the devil by the blood of Jesus and by the word of our testimony! See God has gotten us through a lot. And this current struggle is nothing compared to the mountains God has crumbled before us. There was a time when my husband had to longboard to work every day while I was pregnant with our first child! Some random photographer caught this picture of Brenner truckin’ along to get to his minimum wage job at Walgreens. And now I’m so thankful God gave us this physical memory. Because that simple job made a home for us. That hard work brought food on the table. That dedicated faith, to believe that Jesus was enough, kindled a motivation within us to go the extra mile; even if it meant we were going to walk or skate that distance. Jesus isn’t enough for us because of our works. We work hard because Jesus is enough

And yeah. Here we are with no car. But this time we have been given people who are willing to give us rides! That’s incredible! Jesus is enough.

Let me say that one more time…

Jesus. Is. Enough. 

Covenant

People say that all religions are similar and therefore equally true (pluralism, universalism, omnism, whaeverism), but that’s really not accurate. Some religions have multiple gods that serve different purposes. Some have one god, who demands works and constant atonement for even a possibility of receiving ‘heaven’ after death-and even with all that hardship, still nothing is certain with allah. Some have the religion of self; and though they would claim to reject the idea of God, they actually are declaring themselves to be their own god. I guess you could say that the common theme amongst religions and world views is a deep yearning for something more than what we can see: more knowledge, equality, love, joy, peace, etc. All of that which is deeply longed for and much more, can be found in the one, true Judeo-Christian God. And I would argue that Christianity is not a religion at all, but a relationship. Our kind and loving God only wants an intimate relationship with us, which He has provided through the belief of Jesus the Messiah as Savior. Our God only wants us to step into a covenant with Him and allow Him to lead us on. As any husband should.

There are many distinctions between Christianity and all other religions/ideologies; however,  I just want to focus in on one- the intimate covenant with Jesus.

First, I need to tell you a little about my life in order to show you who this God is and what His covenant with us means.
My husband and I have been in a relationship with Jesus for nearly 3.5 years. We sobered up at ages 19 & 21, surrendered our lives to Christ, and walked forward. Infact, we are coming up on our 3rd year anniversary of marriage. Here’s to defeating the odds! We started out this journey living with some of my family members who were pillars in our faith, meaning they showed us what it looked like to live an imperfect life led by a perfect Messiah.

I slept in a small room with my 3 year old sister (facing my dislike for small children) and Brenner (my husband) slept on my 10 year old brother’s floor. It was hard but oh so necessary for building God’s character within each of us. After a short time we decided to tie the knot.  We worked hard, had a beautiful, backyard wedding, and moved into a small one bedroom apartment. Not long after, we had our first baby, Lazarus. Lazzie was our surprise baby whom we found out about 2 weeks before our wedding.Did I mention we are imperfect people being led by a perfecting God? It’s a process! He is a special kid and has his own incredible testimony, hence the awesome name (look up the story of Lazarus in the Bible).

A year and a half went by in that small apartment.

Stumbling and rising, stumbling and rising.

Our faith was weak but it was still there. We were persistent in seeking God because God was persistent in His miraculous provision. And not just material provision, but providing a change in our hearts, minds and souls. We were becoming new. Speaking of new, a new season arrived, and it was time to move forward.  In the span of one week, we found ourselves gifted a nice car and moving into our first home. The mountaintop is an amazing place to be. So much fresh air, so much perspective of all that God has to offer. But for every peak, there is an equally deep valley. And soon we found ourselves deep in that struggle with no idea where we were going or how we would get there. All we knew was that the mountain exists and God would get us there again. Death is hard. But with my God, it’s not impossible to keep on living after someone you love has died. We will always miss her, but we know that her life isn’t finished with the grave. So with a shuddering breath, foggy vision, and arms reached out in front of us, we marched on. And God met us. He gave us the hope of life and carried us through the trial. Some situations are so challenging, that walking isn’t even an option..but that’s alright, my God is a Shepherd and knows how to carry us. He quite literally gave us more life in the midst of death with the surprise of our second (and final?) baby! Our little girl, Isabelle, who’s name means devoted to God. With the arrival of our little firecracker, IzzyGray, came the summit of another mountain top.

Our family of four made it to the other side of all that mess. Yet being a stay-at-home mom with 2 under 2 is SO TOUGH and suddenly I found myself facing the mental monsters of my past: depression and anxiety. Down to the valley we went. With the tugging of the Holy Spirit and encouragement of our brothers and sisters in Christ, we pressed into God during this mentally/spiritually trying time as parents. We started praying and reading the Bible together every night before putting our kids to bed. Those small acts of pushing forward with God began a spark within us that ignited our entire lives. Our marriage went deeper. Our parenting became more graceful & loving. Our friendships grew. Our ministry thrived. Multiple Bible studies and meet ups were taking place in our home. People, including us, were being delivered in the name of Jesus. Goals were being set, dreams were being envisioned, prayer warriors were rising up against the enemy, and blessing upon blessing were taking place. We were struggling financially but we didn’t even care because we were overflowing with the riches of Heaven. My husband got a second job and I decided to go back to my flexible part-time job, and we could see that our finances were about to rise! Praise God. We could see the mountain coming. This was all leading up to last week.

Last week, my husband started having issues at his job. A few days later our car completely broke down. Having no car suddenly added to the doubt he was already having with his job, and it had us questioning literally everything. In one day, all that we had worked to achieve was on the brink of collapsing. When you take your eyes off God one day, one second, one choice is all it takes for everything to fall apart. But God. BEHOLD! He’s after our hearts. He’s wants an intimate relationship with us. The present circumstances may have seemed to be outwardly damaging but God wanted to do something new inwardly for us. With some counsel, we decided to push through and get rides to work-even if that meant losing money on uber rides and giving friends gas. We chose to walk on, press in, keep fighting the fight.

About a month ago Brenner was washing the dishes, took off his wedding ring, and it vanished. We searched the house and it was gone. The only conclusion was that it was probably thrown away by our sweet toddler. Well last night, after my final tears of self-pity and pleading out to God were shed, I started cleaning the house because I didn’t know what else to do. Low and behold, I found the ring sitting in the corner of the kitchen-a place so incredibly obvious that it had to have been miraculous. I chuckled and picked it up. The engraved words on it gave me chills…


“Put on the whole armor of God” (Ephesians 6:11). Stand firm on what you know is true, remember your salvation in Christ, walk in the righteousness to which you were called, fight off the darkness with the Holy Spirit inside you, block off all negativity, fear, worry and doubt with your faith, and walk in the constant and incomprehensible peace that comes from believing in Jesus’s death, burial and resurrection. Put on the whole armor of God and fight the fight! Do not give up! Do not turn back.

And even more than all of that, I found my husband’s lost wedding ring. God was reminding me that we are in a covenant relationship with Him and He’s got this. We don’t just receive a prize after death. We get the prize on earth too. Eternal life with our all-providing, unconditional loving, ever-caring Husband, The Lord! And oh how He loves us! He will not leave us or forsake us (Deuteronomy 31:6) There is nothing we could do to earn this love but it is given out fully anyways because He’s a good God. We don’t have to worry ‘how’ or ‘why’ some seemingly bad situation happened (though God is cool with you asking Him these things); just know, just believe that God will bring you to the other side.

“Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the LORD your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.” (Deuteronomy 31:6)

The valley and the mountain are both temporary. The ‘mountain mindset’ is eternal.

“This sucks. This is hard. But my God is bigger than this and He loves me. I trust that He will get me through this because He’s done it before.” Divine perspective. And for those who would argue that God’s never done anything for you…you’re alive aren’t you? You’re alive and you have a purpose. God wants you to step in to this intimate covenant with Him. He wants to take care of you. You just have to let Him. I don’t know how we will be okay, but I trust that because God is our husband, we will be okay.  Life is up and down-with or without God. Atleast with God, I know that I know that I know that the ‘up’ is coming and I can have genuine joy and peace even when I’m walking down in the valley.